In response to institutionalized racism and the socioeconomic desperation of black communities, in July 1967, nationalists and other activists met at the National Black Power Conference to propose solutions. The conference passed several resolutions advocating the socioeconomic and political self- determination of black communities and alliances with Third World liberation movements. Attendees also passed a resolution urging that blacks boycott the Olympics in protest of government persecution of Muhammad Ali, who had been stripped of his heavyweight boxing titles by various boxing associations and of his boxing licenses by various state athletic commissions for refusing to enter the military as a draftee and for publicly condemning U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam. The former Cassius Clay had already shaken the establishment by announcing his membership in the Nation of Islam in 1964 and changing his name. He made the political dimension of his new faith prominent on the national stage by refusing to be drafted on the grounds that he was a Muslim minister and, in effect, could not fight in a secular war. Because Ali made no attempt to escape the country to avoid punishment for violation of the conscription laws, he became a hero for many as a man of principle who was willing to sacrifice a highly successful career because of his beliefs. He was naturally an inspiration to other black athletes, many of whom feeling an obligation to emulate him. There was no greater symbol for the radicalization of the black American athlete than Ali.
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